In The Ish: We Got Now

This article appears in SLAM #217, available now in Titan outlets and major bookstores

On the cover of this issue, we celebrate a woman. Inside the issue we shine a light on women fighting everyday to make sure we won’t have to wait another 20 years before another lady fronts SLAM, your local newspaper and everything in between. The women in Philippine Basketball are done waiting for next.

By Karlo Lovenia

Meet Danica Jose. She’s part of a basketball lineage that includes his dad, former PBA player Bobby Jose, and brother, former UAAP Juniors standout Ivan Jose. But she’s more than just her brother and her dad. She’s made a name for herself, being named a part of the Mythical Five for two seasons during her stay with the Ateneo Lady Eagles. Danica’s also fulfilled the dream of any player in the country: to get to represent it, just like how she repped the flag for Perlas Pilipinas in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games.

Bea Daez has been gracing TV screens for quite some time now, analyzing games on ABS-CBN Sports and Action’s men’s basketball telecast. But a small detail many tend to forget: she’s the first and only female analyst on the UAAP men’s basketball telecast. All of this wouldn’t have been possible without her stint with the UP Lady Maroons in UAAP Women’s Basketball.

Jack Animam is following the footsteps of Bea and Danica, currently playing for the NU Lady Bulldogs in the UAAP. She’s a multiple time Mythical Five members, while winning MVP during Season 80. Most importantly, she’s represented the country in multiple occasions now, with her last stint coming from the FIBA 3×3 World Cup.

Coach Patrick Aquino is Animam’s mentor, both in NU and in the National Team. He’s won multiple titles in the UAAP, leading the Lady Bulldogs to consecutive sweeps to continue the dominant reign of the Lady Bulldogs.

Mariana Lopa used to play for the Ateneo Lady Eagles during her days in the UAAP, but she has an even bigger mission now. She’s the Managing Director of Girls Got Game, a nonprofit organization that organizes sporting camps specifically for girls. The goal is simple: to empower women that they to can play different sports, including basketball.

Ceej Tantengco is best known as a courtside reporter for the NCAA, but she has an even greater mission. She’s pushed for so long to #CoverTheAthlete, a movement that asks that women are given the same amount of respect in media coverage as their male counterparts.

They’re all established figures in Philippine Basketball, their resumes tell the entire story. They clearly know their stuff. But most importantly, they know what they’re fighting for: Better attention and respect for their colleagues. This is the story of the woman in basketball.

Where do you think women are right now in the grander scheme of things in Philippine Basketball?

Bea Daez: Hopefully we have a grassroots program to develop the skills of young aspiring female players but at the same time, have a pro sports league. This will widen the pool of players to choose from and at the same time, give them a venue to further hone their skills.

Coach Patrick Aquino: I can say that we are third (in terms of attention given). First is men’s basketball, second is boys basketball, and women’s third. It’s just sad that here in the Philippines, with men’s we follow basketball, and women’s is volleyball, and we all know that sponsors grab any opportunities they can with men’s for basketball and women’s for volleyball. Those two sports in particular are the most watched and followed here in our country.

Mariana Lopa: While we are now worlds away from the “dalagang pilipina” stereotype for women in the Philippines, there is so much to be aspired for for women in Philippine basketball. In terms of following and support, its still really lacking. With no professional league, there’s still no sustainable future for female players. Until this is put in place, I think it will be hard for the women’s game to catch up.

Ceej Tantengco: I was at a Women in Sports workshop organized by the Australian Embassy last month, and it’s telling that “ang hirap maging babae, no?” turned out to be such an easy icebreaker. Every woman—athlete, coach, writer, reporter—has their own story of having to hustle harder and deal with more shit just to find our place in a male-dominated industry.

Jack Animam: I think women right now in the Philippine Basketball society are given more respect and attention after our stint in the 3X3 World Cup.

Danica Jose: In the greater scheme of things in Philippine basketball, women’s basketball are still struggling for relevance and exposure. While majority of the interest and attention goes to men’s basketball, they are somehow in the conversation to sports fans.

In what other aspects do you think can Women’s Basketball in the country grow in?

Bea Daez: Same with number one, it can start with changing the belief and norm that basketball is just for men. A professional league and a solid basketball program for our National Team certainly help.

Coach Patrick Aquino: I think one is to have a pro league for them. They will be exposed, and the level of basketball among women will get better. Therefore the national team can select the best, and form a better and ready team for international competitions. Another one would be sending the national team for more exposure so that we can compete with other countries, and I know for a fact that we can compete with them just with more experience. To add, hopefully rin the media can help us expose through social media and other ways to give these girls a chance to show and prove that they can also play and give entertainment to all basketball fanatics. Hopefully more TV exposure also.

Mariana Lopa: In order to be more competitive, support has to increase hand in hand with the improvement of the quality of the game. That’s a “chicken and egg” situation where these two factors have to work together to really grow the game. Ideally, if there is ample support, there will be enough training to make us competitive in the international game. This will then make our players more marketable and it will simply make fiscal sense to have a professional league. I suppose the challenge really is to determine who will take the first step and really go “all in” on womens basketball for this to happen.

Ceej Tantengco: We need to have a career path for our female ballers. Where do they go after college, without a pro or even semi-pro league? And this isn’t just about giving opportunities for the sake of giving them. Without a professional basketball scene to develop talent beyond the collegiate level, we will always struggle at the international stage.

Jack Animam: Women’s Basketball in the country can grow in so many ways. If only they will give more exposure and to have grassroot programs. And enough knowledge that WOMEN’S BASKETBALL DOES EXIST!

Danica Jose: There are a lot of opportunities for women’s basketball in the country. The first would be a growth in visibility. With the exciting and competitive games that the teams deliver, only a few people get to witness this. (No coverage and promotions of the games/teams) Since Filipinos are known to be very passionate in basketball, then putting time and effort to grow women’s basketball is a good investment. Which leads me to my second point, if more brands/sponsors see the value of women’s basketball, then it also translates to a sustainable and developing program.

As an ambassador for the sport, especially for women, what role do you play when it comes to the growth of Women’s Basketball in the country?

Bea Daez: I think that I help become the voice of all the girl basketball players in showing everyone my love and passion for the game. Even if i have a day job, i really grab every opportunity that’s related to basketball. I try to promote the sport for women by being the only female sports analyst and attending basketball events like the Agimat Media event even if it means being the only girl.

Coach Patrick Aquino: Well as a coach i have to build, or make a competitive national team so that when we compete with other Asian countries, and let the Pinoy fan see that we can play with the best. By doing that, maybe we will be recognized and will have funding from sponsors for a professional league. Then it will be a like a domino effect for women’s basketball. It is also my role to mold and teach the girls to become better players. To teach and practice hard to be the best that they can be.

Mariana Lopa: As an advocate of sports, especially women’s sports, I think it’s important for me to raise awareness with regard to what’s out there and what can be done. With social media, and even traditional forms of media, there are so many opportunities to introduce the game to a wider audience and break stereotypes about women in sports.

Of course there are also initiatives like Girls Got Game that makes sports more accessible to young Filipinas. This is why I think GGG is my mission so I can “share the dream”, so to speak.

Ceej Tantengco: As a journalist, it comes down to representing women’s basketball and the athletes well. When the media chooses to report on an aspect of the game, it signals, “this is what’s important.” Which is why it’s so damaging to female athletes when they work so hard then a sports publication thinks the best way to market women’s basketball is through “Top 10 Hottest Players” lists or patronizing lines like “she’s not just a pretty face, she can play too!” That’s like if we covered the PBA and kept profiling Chris Banchero even though it’s an SMB-Ginebra finals.

Articles like that may get you hits today, but hurt the growth of the sport in the long run. I hear from female athletes who complain they can’t get sponsors because they don’t “fit the look,” which then makes it harder for them to stay in the sport. If we want people to care about women’s basketball, we need to look beyond going viral and highlight what matters to our female athletes: their game. Period.

Jack Animam: As long as I’m playing basketball, I will encourage all females out there to try and play basketball. Because it is not just MALE who can play and be stars when it comes to basketball, us females also.

Danica Jose: In a male dominated sport, our country needs to see that women too have the capability to excel in basketball. As a player, my role is to empower and inspire the youth to continue playing the sport that they love and not let anything hinder them from doing so. I try to join basketball clinics to teach kids (both girls and boys) not just the basic fundamental drills but also the values they can learn from basketball. Being part of the corporate world makes me miss the sport that I played for almost 10 years which is why I am planning to offer my services again for the National Team. More than the opportunity, it will be a responsibility to perform to our full potential and at the same time exhibit good values off the court. I believe that this will be my way of helping uplift women’s basketball in our country.

Five years from now, where can you see Women’s Basketball to be in the country?

Bea Daez: Well, i hope that in 5 years, we would already have a professional league even if we start at a 3×3 league. Because now, the highest level of competition we have is the UAAP. For the national team, hopefully they would have already gotten the gold medal in the SEA Games and continue to be in the Division 1 of FIBA. This would only happen though if we have a solid year round program and they get to play in every international tournament possible

Coach Patrick Aquino: With the continued support of our sponsors (Ever Bilena of Dioceldo Sy) I can see the Women’s National Basketball Program continuing to be in the level of other Asian countries. You know if there’s any more sponsors with the likes of Mr. Sy who think the future is good for women’s basketball here in our country.

Mariana Lopa: Five years from now, I hope to see all the different factions within the structure of women’s basketball all uniting to form one solid program. Hopefully, this will include a grassroots program, elite training, and a commercial or professional league. If we put these systems into play, the quality of the game will get better, and we will become more competitive.

Ceej Tantengco: I feel like this generation is trending towards being outspoken. Even outside basketball, more female athletes are speaking up about the gender gap alongside younger sports journalists who care about their struggle. So while I can’t say for sure whether we’ll get the leagues we want in five years, I’m hopeful that we’ll have a stronger community for female athletes.

Jack Animam: Five years from now, I am hoping that there’s already a league for women’s basketball. Even if it’s not big like PBA, just a stepping stone into a much bigger and brighter future and opportunity for women who can play ball.

Danica Jose: 5 years from now, I hope that we will have a better grassroots development program because they will be the future of women’s basketball. This will also motivate the players to represent the country, knowing that there is a support system behind all their hard work. It will also put us in a good position to win games on a global stage.

Who are some of the personalities, whether it be locally or abroad, that have helped in your growth as a member of Women’s Basketball in the country?

Bea Daez: All my coaches definitely have helped shape me to become the player that I am today. Kahit mahirap ang training, I would still choose to play basketball everyday if i can hahaha. Also of course, my ABS-CBN family, because they helped start my career in TV sports. They gave me another avenue to show my love for the game, by talking about the sport.

Coach Patrick Aquino: Mr Dioceldo Sy and the Sm Supermarkets group have been there for us. They are the one helping us to become what we are right now, with their support and with the help of SBP. I hope others can come in to finance the national team or maybe help make a semi pro, or pro league for women’s. It not just helps build the level of Women’s basketball but also help these hard working girls make something for what they have been working hard since they were kids. Sana may magtiwala or mag gamble lang for these girls. I know they have the talent to entertain us Pinoy basketball fanatics, and maybe we can be proud in the future to have a player playing in the WNBA also. Or battling for medals in the Olympics and other international tournaments.

Mariana Lopa: Growing up I always idolized Sue Bird not only because of her on court game but also because of the way she carries herself off the court; she is classy and always represents the game well.

A lot of people have influenced me and my passion for the game. Specifically, some of my coaches from Assumption (Coach Rebo Saguisag, Coach Paul Supan, Coach Reg Jose) really instilled the love and respect for the game that I carry with me today.

Ceej Tantengco: The Australian Embassy conducted a seminar for women in sports, which gave us a safe space to talk about these issues outside our male-dominated workplaces. Internationally, I’d say I’ve been inspired by athletes like Serena Williams and the WNBA’s marketing campaigns, which give us a road map to where we could be in terms of gaining respect for women. I’d also like to give a shoutout to Bea Daez, for being brave enough to go on record with me in 2016. We talked about sexism in sports media and received backlash from the old boy’s club of the press who called us ungrateful and naive. That took a lot of courage on her part.

Jack Animam: It was my coaches who helped me growth as a member of Women’s Basketball in the country. Especially coach Pat.

Danica Jose: I look up to the likes of Elena Delle Donne and Candace Parker (WNBA players) because they use their platform to uplift WNBA. More than showcasing their skills and leading their team, they don’t stay quiet on relevant issues and they stand up for what they believe in. With this, it inspires me to become more empowered not just as a player but as a woman as well.

Who do you think are some personalities that you expect to push for growth for women in the basketball scene?

Bea Daez: I think it’s a two way role currently between our national team and the support of SBP and other sponsors. If someone can back up a pro league like MVP, i think everyone will be shocked by how many female ballers there are in the country.

Coach Patrick Aquino: The same personalities that are helping us now that can push for the growth of Women’s basketball in our country. But I know when the ball is rolling, more sponsors will come in. It’s just a matter of starting it and helping one another for these girls.

Mariana Lopa: Definitely the younger places should accept their roles as advocates of the women’s game. They should come to realize that they are not just playing to exercise or to win, they are growing the game and paving the way for future players to have an opportunity to play basketball for a living.

Ceej Tantengco: Jack Danielle Animam for sure. Coach Pat Aquino and the entire Perlas Pilipinas squad did good by speaking up at the FIBA 3×3 WC about the lack of support for women’s basketball. I hope sports brands who champion women empowerment see that and show their support. But more than that, I’d love to see more men speak up about the gender gap in sports. This isn’t a “women’s issue” that only women should be speaking up about. It takes all of us.

Jack Animam: I think who can push for the growth of women in the basketball scene is Mr. Dioceldo Sy. And PSC, POC if they will let us participate and support us in international events continuously.

Danica Jose: I think it should start from the women’s basketball community. Both current and former players should be more proactive with pushing for the growth of women’s basketball in the country. Once people start noticing the active effort, then there is a greater chance that they would want to be a part of this.

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